Bank of America, Citigroup Face Billions In Losses in Antitrust Case

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Private antitrust litigation pitting some five million retailers against Visa , MasterCard , and 13 large banks, including Bank of America and Citigroup has slipped under the radar of many analysts and investors who follow those companies, but the case may deliver a multi-billion dollar shock to bank bulls in the coming months.

Aside from Bank of America and Citigroup, the other banks that appear to have the most at stake as a result of the litigation in the U.S. Eastern District of New York are US Bancorp and JPMorgan Chase . All four face billions in potential losses.

Estimates of the potential cost of a settlement of the antitrust case vary dramatically–from a few billion dollars into the hundreds of billions. At least as worrisome to the financial companies, according to Deutsche Bank research, is the risk that a settlement or judge’s ruling could take the 2% “interchange” fees banks and card companies charge retailers on credit card transactions to as low as .5%, That would equal the rate in Australia, but still be higher than the .3% charged in the European Union, according to a report by Sanford Bernstein analyst Rod Bourgeois.

The impact of such a change would be several times as costly as the Durbin Amendment, which caps fees banks can charge on debit cards and is one of the new rules most hated by the big banks.

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